In November, I had the pleasure of attending the ARchitect User Forum 2019. Next PR brought the ARchitect platform onboard last year to help manage our analyst relationships across clients, and we’ve had a great experience thus far.
At the conference, our team attended both practical and aspirational sessions, but listening to a panel of leaders from the review site industry generated the most conversation. Yes, they miraculously convinced TrustRadius, G2, IT Central Station and Gartner Peer Insights to appear together and answer detailed questions from a room full of analyst relations professionals.
Next PR has some history in the space. We’ve previously represented one of the above major players. Our team also assisted a company acquired by Gartner as part of its growing portfolio of review brands. The experience gave us unique insight into how the space works.
Here are a few frequently asked questions we get about working with these sites for B2B SaaS companies:
How do software review sites work?
All of these sites have quality controls in place to make sure the user reviews posted are from legitimate customers and provide valuable insight. The approach varies slightly with each company – some are still manually reviewing each submission, filtering for indications that the writer isn’t a real user, whether a bot or possible saboteur. IT Central Station actually conducts phone interviews of users and then creates a summary of the review.
Once a review is qualified, the information contributes to a platform’s score. The review company then uses the cumulative numeric results to create grids, guides and reports.
Does anyone pay attention to these reviews?
In the panel session at ARchitect’s User Conference, the speakers all emphasized internal data indicating platform reviews are an important piece of most buyers’ decisions. This is a self-serving conclusion, but there is a kernel of truth here. I realize the people paying closest attention to these reviews are the companies being reviewed. But for potential customers, I think these reviews are used as a fail-safe.
When you’re making a large buying decision, creating pro/con lists is typically a first step – and software review sites are a great place to look for that information. It’s also where some decision-makers go to get an unfiltered take and avoid sales jargon. Reviews aren’t the end all and be all though, and buyers gather information from other sources, too.
TL;DR: You should care, but don’t get too hung up on critical comments.
Should I ask happy customers to review our platform?
One of the surprising talking points in the panel was that most customers are never asked to review a platform. As our own VP of HR would say, feedback is a gift. Out of fear and because of known issues, companies may hesitate to ask for reviews. This is short-sighted. To improve your platform, you need feedback from customers – and it helps to address the issues you may have. Also, your clients might surprise you with positive comments!
You should do your due diligence BEFORE asking for public reviews, but don’t be too paralyzed to take advantage of the opportunity. Most customers want to provide their opinion. I recommend offering the opportunity to speak with a team member about concerns in your call to action. This ensures your team has the chance to address complaints before they become public.
Should we earmark marketing dollars to make an investment with one or multiple sites?
This is the toughest question. All of the software review sites will work with your company to gather reviews for a price. Amazon gift cards or donations to charity are popular incentives to motivate users to share their thoughts.
As you might be able to guess from ARchitect inviting four separate review sites to present, there’s no clear market leader and potential buyers could visit any of the platforms to gather information. You should consult your PR team and they can put together a plan to help determine an appropriate level of investment. For most B2B SaaS companies, exploring a paid relationship has ROI, but the decision will depend on your current marketing goals and expected feedback.
Traditional analyst relations still play an important role in the B2B SaaS space, but software review sites also have a role to play in the sales process. It’s a newer aspect of both customer experience and public relations that even seasoned analyst relations professionals have questions about. If you have questions, let us know. We’re here to help.